HTML and CSS Reference
In 2004, at the W3C W orkshop on Web Applications and Compound
Documents, Opera and Mozilla, concerned that the standards process
might become increasingly irrelevant to the web as it existed in the real
world, put forward a position paper outlining an alternative approach.
This paper outlined seven “Design Principles for Web Application
Technologies” and, in the context of these, proposed answers to the
questions the workshop had set out to answer.
The document was voted down by the rest of the attendees, who
wanted to stick with the current XML , rather than HTML , -based
approach. Two days later, the Web Hypertext Application Technology
Working Group (WHATWG) was formed.
Step forward WHATWG
The WHATWG set out to define the next HTML standard according to
the seven principles set out in Opera's and Mozilla's document. They
underpin the entire approach taken by the WHATWG during the
development of HTML5 , so let's look at them now:
“Backwards compatibility, clear migration path” —In 2004, IE6 was the
browser of choice for 80% of web users. The WHATWG felt that
there was little point in specifying new HTML functionality unless it
required to emulate the new features in IE6 , then the chances were it
would never see large uptake among web developers.
“Well-defined error handling” —A major point of incompatibility in con-
temporary browsers was not what happened when the page author
got everything correct, but what happened when they made a mis-
take. The next standard should specify error handling and error
“Users should not be exposed to authoring errors” —This addressed a major
difference of opinion with the XML -based approach at the W3C .
WHATWG wanted browsers to recover from errors gracefully and,
where recovery was possible, not display an error message to the
user—just like HTML .